Periodically! #8 – Too Cold to Snow? and In Memoriam

cropped-periodically3.jpgBack when I lived in Minnesota, where one must be brave or crazy to live in the winter, there was a saying there that it if the temperature reached a certain level of cold (like 10 degrees and below), it was too cold to snow. Such bromides must only occur in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Either that, or this saying doesn’t work in Michigan. For I can tell you, after a fairly mild winter (where I admit, I was spoiled with temperate weather and rain instead of buckets of snow), when the polar express heads to Hockeytown, it doesn’t matter how cold it is – it’s going to snow.

I’m reporting this from San Francisco, where the area is experiencing a strange heat wave. *ducking stones*

The last few weeks have been sad ones. We’ve lost great musicians (David Bowie and Glenn Frye – my city, where he grew up, is naming a street near the high school where he graduated after him), great actors (Alan Rickman), and now, a great friend of mine.

Known online as The Little Fluffy Cat, I met Lydia Ondrusek online over ten years in a now defunct website called gather.com. Gather was an up-and-coming social network, which was launched as an outlet for writers and artists. Well, it became much more than that. Unsupervised for the most part, the site was like an unruly high school classroom full of bullies, geeks, and the popular cliques. Despite some troubling aspects to the site, the upside is (besides the fact that I got paid, and handsomely at the end) that I met an incredible group of writers. When the End loomed, we all jumped off the Gather ship and Lydia found a private place (Glitches) for us on Ning.

Then came Facebook (which I was already on) and the rest is history. I met Lydia in person (along with some of the other Glitchers) in Ohio a few years ago. As I find when I meet all my online friends, they are just as wonderful in person as they are online. Instant connection. Like we knew each other for years and years In Real Life.

Lydia was a writer, so adept at flash fiction, which I admired. I have a problem writing, in that I tend to go on and on (and on). Some of her short stories bordered on the supernatural, the out of the ordinary. She also wrote touching poetry, and her haikus were beautiful, concise and full of imagery in so few words.

Lydia was a great cheerleader (and occasional cattle prodder) to a wannabe writer like me. I hated to bother her, but I trusted her instincts, and she would never blow me off, even though I knew she was busy, with writing and with her family. I would send her short stories, most of which were flawed, and she let me know right away what the problems were. She pointed me to resources like books and classes, and urged me to find a writers conference. After she’d cheered me on for the two years I’d been working on my first novel, Finding Cadence, I sent her the first chapter for an edit, as that week I was going to attend my first San Francisco Writers Conference. (She lived in Texas, so almost all our communication was done by email.) She returned it less than five minutes later, full of red lines. I wasn’t finished yet, not by a long shot.

I was full of fear before that conference, especially after the red lines, but Lydia encouraged me.

lydiaThis is Lydia.

She was really into the Internet, and encouraged me to join Twitter. (Actually, she also invited me into WordPress, which lead to six months of headaches for me, but that’s another story. You can scroll backward to the beginning, to see where I started in 2009.) I couldn’t get Twitter for the longest time. I’m still not adept at it, but the great thing about it is that even though I might not add anything to the conversation, I can eavesdrop and gain so much information.

dedicationLydia was the last person I acknowledged in Finding Cadence, along with Sandy, my other online mentor.

Lydia once sent me a draft of a manuscript she’d been working on that I found intriguing. Except for a few chapters in the middle, it was almost finished, and I wondered why she hadn’t finished it. Like all her work, it was good, really good. (I hope she got the chance to finish it. This is my greatest fear, leaving work undone.) Later, I found she had attended HER first writers conference, and was amazed that she had never attended one before.

Lydia also knit (or crocheted) all sorts of wonderful things. I have one of her hats somewhere. In return, I sent her some of my (first attempts at) jewelry. The last thing she sent me was an assortment of amber. I’m going to have to think of something very special to wire it into.

Lydia lost her battle with bad health a few weeks ago. Our online community has been totally crushed with the news. But I will carry on, in her giving spirit, and remember what a beautiful, talented woman she was, and strive to help others in the same way.

lfcRest in Peace, Little Fluffy Cat. We’re going to miss you.

You can learn more about Lydia here.

Write News

Follow this blog! I discovered a ‘new’ writers resource from the Wellstone Center in the Redwoods. If you write, you must follow.

As followers know, I sometimes suffer from writer’s block. Or other excuses. Here’s a post on how to keep going, even the writing isn’t linear in nature. Just write!

I found a very interesting blog called Writing Sideways. Many good links. A writer cannot have too many resources.

This is an EXCELLENT post regarding your characters’ personality traits. Your characters can’t be all good or all evil. Even the evil ones have to have a redeeming quality and even good people have a dark side. Now to get that into the writing…

Interesting Articles

Is it live? Or is it Memorex? Chuck Wendig discusses depression versus writer’s block in this compelling post.

Here’s some good information on marketing for writers. If you read all the way through, there is a link with free PDF on how to build an email list. (I obviously need all of this help, as I am clueless. And slow.)

Totally unrelated to writing, but rather interesting to fierce women, is this article about wearing black.

Reading This Month

On my iPhone, I’m reading Today a Better Way, a self-help book put out by Families Anonymous. Every day, there is a brief passage to read. While intended for friends and family of substance abusers, these short readings are helpful for anyone feeling stress and hopelessness.

This month, on my way to San Francisco, I read two of my dear Internet friend Arthur Wooten’s novels. On Picking Fruit is a bittersweet but humorous journey of one man’s journey to find his perfect soul mate. And Birthday Pie is an equally entertaining look at a man’s (reluctant) return to his Southern hometown to say goodbye to his ailing father. Both novels (well, all of Arthur’s novels) are populated with the most unusual, likable and oddly flawed characters you could ever imagine.

Question of the Month

Writers: This month I’m taking an online class with Michelle Richmond. I’m also attending the San Francisco Writers Conference. I do both to keep learning, to stay motivated, and to nurture my community. My question is, if you write, what do you do to improve your writing?

Readers: Any pet peeves in what you are finding on the shelves these days? Feel free to answer here, or email me.

Quote of the Month

The writer’s job is to get the main character up a tree, and then once they’re up there, throw rocks at them. ~Vladimir Nabokov


Here’s the real action: check it out.

Find me on Facebook! I’ll friend anyone. Ask anyone. I even approve the weird guys from another country who IM me to ask about my life but clearly have never read my profile.

I’m a Goodreads author! Honest to God. Ask me a question, I’ll be happy to answer. Even if it’s a *stupid* question. (Or a questionable question. Those are the best kind.)

Follow me on Twitter! I’m not sure I have anything wonderful to say. I will say that I follow some interesting people. I can’t believe I can say this, but a few interesting people follow me, too. Twitter: the cyber cocktail party – alcohol not necessary.

I’m also on Pinterest! Rarely, but I do hit up the boards every now and again.


Periodically!, PO Box 207, Royal Oak, Michigan 48068

 

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The San Francisco Writers Conference – 2013 Edition

Five years ago I was THIS: an author with a freshly pressed “The End” at the bottom of an abyss-like (and therefore abysmal) tome of 175K words. My first novel. I’d researched plenty of writers conferences and thought the San Francisco Writers Conference was the one for me. Highly touted by everyone, and when my writer pals found out Donald Maass was slated as one of the speakers, they pushed me to attend. It’s held in February, when I can usually take a week off without the (Real) world coming to a crushing end. And my son was going to college there, so visiting after the conference was a definite plus. But I was self-conscious and didn’t think my work was good enough. That was the year I thought, “I’m just going to be a fly on the wall and observe dispassionately.” I’ll become the human sponge and soak up all the knowledge I can.

Yeah. Right.

I must admit, I was star struck, flabbergasted, and so amazed that my head didn’t stop spinning for a month. Agents, writers, editors – genuine best selling authors! But there was more to it than a reporter’s unbiased look at a world class writers conference. As with any love, I fell, deep and hard.

Wallflower no more, I made friends. I chatted with people around the country and around the world. Their positive energy and enthusiasm caused me to step outside of my comfort zone. Even though my draft was a first draft, and needed a TON of work, I signed up for agent speed dating and gave it a whirl – where I learned not only was my book not ready for the big time, I was not ready either.

Tomorrow morning at 6 a.m., I’ll be jetting back to the City by the Bay for yet another conference. This year, it’s different. I’m seasoned. Thanks to the SFWC, I have accumulated a ton of writing friends, belong to the RWA (PRO member!) and Greater Detroit RWA, and have an editor that I work with. I self-published what was my second completed novel last year. I’ve learned to stalk agents on Twitter without having them take out a personal protection order out on me. I’m hooked up with so many helpful writing web sites, and have increased my writing reference library by 10 fold. But just because I’ve attended five years in a row doesn’t mean I know it all.

I’m counting on Michael Larsen and Elizabeth Pomada to host another kick-ass conference, where I’ll learn more than my head can possibly contain (and therefore will take copious notes), be thrilled and encouraged by the successes of others, and jump start my mojo so that I can write yet another day.

They haven’t let me down yet.

🙂

Regrets and Resolutions: A Writer’s End of Year

I honestly don’t understand how some published authors are so prolific. Especially mind boggling are those who have small children, businesses or day jobs, health problems, and the like. My life (especially the last few months) is at times so chaotic, it’s sweet relief to fall into bed at night. As a result, writing as taken a definite back seat.

Yet I try to squeeze out some writing time on a regular basis. I could be doing other things, like being more productive in my business(es) (totally boring), working out (uber boring), or maintaining my house and yard (not so boring, but time consuming). I could promote my writing more, but I’d feel like a huckster on a street corner peddling apples. Plus I’m too laid back (i.e. lazy) to do real promotion. I’m an artist: you either love my work, or you don’t. No hard feelings.

If I have one writing regret of 2012, it’s that I haven’t written MORE. Unfortunately, life threw me a couple of obstacles this year, and precious time was taken up by other more pressing matters. Maybe I was hoping the Mayans were right and I’d have no qualms about my absenteeism if I didn’t wake up on the 22nd.

Of course, that didn’t happen. The sun came up the next day.

2013 is starting early for me. Like TODAY.  My writing resolutions are as such:

1. Write more. I know. I say this all the time, but I need self-flagellation on a regular basis. Perhaps I should pencil that in on my calendar? While I’m throwing that idea on the fire, perhaps blogging more would be a good idea too.

2. Write more carefully. (Excuse my probably bad sentence.) Use what I’ve learned over the last few years to prevent writing mistakes before they happen. That way I won’t have such a heavy burden when it comes time to…

3. Edit more carefully. I’ve been working on Finding Cadence since 2007. I’m on my sixth edit, and I’m amazed to find errors and awkward phrasing even now. While I’m not exactly pleased as punch with Virtually Yours, the book served a purpose, mainly to remind me that editing never ends.

4. Study more. I love the Savvy Authors web site. So far, I’ve taken two classes and found them to be most helpful. The support and feedback are wonderful.

5. Network more. While I don’t write genre romance (my work does have romantic elements) I belong to the RWA and the Greater Detroit RWA and I’m a terrible member. I need to attend more meetings. I might need to branch out and find a serious critique group.

6. And finally, finish all of the half-baked projects I have hidden on my hard drive. I’ve got excellent ideas and compelling stories, but they won’t finish themselves. Time is short; I am old. I really need to start writing as fast as I can. After all, if someone with children under the age of 5 can do it, I should be able to.

For writers, writing is life. It’s the air we breathe. We have to channel our imagination somewhere, or we turn into tortured souls.

Leaving now to find my source of oxygen.

A Farewell to Borders

Last week, I decided to make a trip to Borders and pay my final respects. Actually, I wanted to see if all the publicized horror stories reported in the papers were true: That a trip to Borders was like watching a ghost town appear right before your eyes, that the remaining employees were zombies with the customer service helpfulness sucked right out of them, that the sad sales floor resembled a pool of piranha circling in anticipation of the last 75% sign to go up.

I have to report that none of the above were true.

Certainly, my local, favorite Borders in Birmingham is the upscale, flagship store. Two stories, brick and glass, roomy, it had a kick-ass coffee bar and lots of comfortable chairs. Although southeastern Michigan suffers in this bad economy (and suffers, and suffers some more), the stores and the people of Birmingham have yet to get the memo on the recession. The Birmingham Borders has always teemed with customers, the parking lot just as full in the middle of July as it is during the Christmas rush, when I’ve witnessed car wars for spots and the resultant fender-bending crashes.

Borders was stuffed full of customers the other day when I went to bid farewell.

Okay. I know. I don’t need more books. With a “To Read” list towering over me, threatening to topple and break my leg, what I really need is time to finish reading everything I have set out to read. I entered Borders with the sole intent of taking a short trip around both floors and maybe scoring a few pretty notebooks for my purse.

Somehow, I got caught up in a mood. Not a sober mood, but a celebratory mood. I wasn’t sure if I should feel embarrassed, or if I should join in. Have you ever been to a funeral service where people are laughing and having a good time? You want to remember the good times, but you also want to maintain an air of somber respect.

This was the Birmingham Borders last week.

So the coffee bar was shut down. So the books were pulled into the center of the store and the store fixtures stacked on top of each other. So the computer screens were dimmed. You’d never know a fire sale was going on in the face of impending bankruptcy. I’d never seen so many families with young children poring over books. So many older couples holding hands, their baskets full of books. Even the single shoppers like me were picking up the books, running our hands over the spines, checking out the covers and blurbs. (I myself prefer a physical book over the electronic kind, as I find reading from the page easier on my eyes.) Perhaps our rapture was over the discounts (at 20 – 40%, not exactly deep), or maybe it was because we all loved the books.

Which led me to wonder, especially in a high-revenue store like the one in Birmingham – WHAD HAPPENED??? At one time, a big-box company like Borders was going to eat up all the small booksellers. Independent book sellers, while a staple in trendy places like New York City or San Francisco, are like finding the proverbial hen’s tooth in metro Detroit.

It was only a few months ago that Borders (based in Ann Arbor) announced they would be moving to downtown Detroit as a cost-cutting measure. That announcement brought hope – something like the hope before chemo. Now all we have is the wake before the burial.

As for me, I came away with more than a few pretty journals. I bought several classic books I had wanted to re-read but didn’t have in my library. I bought some 2012 calendars, hoping that next year will be better for book sellers, authors and readers. I bought some light, trashy romance novels. I figured I needed a happy ending where girl gets guy and both ride off into the sunset.

Then I went home and tried to figure out where the nearest Barnes and Noble is, and prayed for their continued existence in the modern world.